The new Lexus HS250 is a departure for Lexus and its hybrid line. The LS600 hybrid is meant to have the power of a V12 with the fuel economy of a V8, utilizing a hybrid system in conjunction with a V8 which gives it decent fuel economy. The same can be said for the GS450 hybrid. These are hybrids that are standing for something other then being green but more for performance in a different way than the competitors. The HS250 is the Lexus that is meant to be your step up into Luxury while still being “green.”
So you have had a Prius and you are now a little older, a little wiser, and want a vehicle that is a little more luxurious. What is your next move for a new car? Well, you could go and get a new third generation Prius and load it up with all the optional tech toys. Though the Prius does not have the luxury badge, and you still want to be a little green. Enter the Lexus HS250 which is all new for 2010. At first glance you think Toyota took and rebadged/restyled a Prius and slapped a L badge on it. The HS250 is actually based on the Scion tC platform and the foreign market Toyota Avensis platform. This front wheel drive platform is a fine base, but people still assume naturally this is a rebadged Prius.
With a 2.4-liter Atkinson-cycle four cylinder putting out 147 hp and adding to that a 40 hp electric motor, you get a grand total of 187 hp and 180 ft-lb. This is essentially the powertrain from the Toyota Camry Hybrid. This is good for a rated 8.7 second jaunt from 0-60 which is almost a full second quicker then the new third generation Prius. Driving is more engaging and much more “Lexus like” than the Prius. With much more sound deadening and a lighter to the touch steering feel, this car feels more luxurious. This is all good because this car is quite a bit more money then the Prius. The car is refined and overall enjoyable to drive. I was taking corners faster than a hybrid usually wants to go, and the car handled comfortably without complaint. Although this is definitely no sports car. Once going, the wind noise and more importantly highway noise is noticeably quieter then the Prius. Something to note, the engine does not require premium fuel. It is content with regular 87 octane gasoline. The car is rated at 35 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway for a combined 34 mpg overall. I have heard reports of people getting mid 50’s, which if you harp on it constantly you can fall into the very low 30’s. These are all respectable numbers, though the new Prius is rated at 50 mpg combined which you can easily beat when trying. One reason for the huge gas milage differences is the Prius’s engine is a smaller displacement putting out less total power.
The interior is a nice place to spend time. The car I had was “stripped,” no optional equipment was on board. The sound system was OK but definitely not as good as the optional Mark Levinson sound system. The controls all operate silky smooth and are great to the touch. The “buttons” on the steering wheel are not as they appear. The actual buttons are under those icons which are covered in a membrane like material. The trunk is a mere 12.1 cubic feet because the battery pack is sandwiched between the backseat and the trunk. There are a lot of tech toys that are available on this car that were not on the car I tested. If you are into tech this car can be completely loaded up.
The base price for this car is $34,200 and if you option it out with technology, you could be knocking close to the $50k door. Keep in mind you are deep in entry level luxury range here competing in price with the Infiniti G37, Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, and others. This car does get much better gas milage, and after all, is that not what Hybrids are all about? Lexus is saying this car falls between the ES and IS line and is for young technology savvy people that care about the environment. Notice they did not say green because we all know they have the lower level Toyota Prius for that. In this price bracket I would have a hard time recommending this car, personally I would go with one of the aforementioned competitors. I am into driver engagement and fun-to-drive factor, and in those departments, this car can not compete. If you want an entry level hybrid luxury, car this is the only place to look in town because there is no real competition, yet.